Where our heroes, now capable of Spelljamming, encounter some Doppelgangers.
An adventure starring Jaxxo the Lizardfolk Monk, Jim Clocks the Half-Aquatic Elf Rogue and L’Eau D’ur the Genasi Warlock.
I’m in black and Jon (the DM) is in blue.
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So the boys find themselves flying along a deep red strand of the phlogiston and upon exiting jamspace they see a system that features a planet orbiting around a bright green sun.
The only real place to go seems to be a planet that seems to feature a big giant tooth protruding up out of lush green planet. Spelljammer, you know?
We park the Space Whale at the port of a city that seems to be built on the upper surface of the tooth. The name of the town? Toothtown.
You’re spoiling us Jon.
Spelljammer is supposed to be weird. I wanted a 80s cartoon sci-fi Mad Max vibe for some of this. Was it actually an enormous tooth? Or was it marble cliffs that just really looked like it?
Having nothing better to do and having not seen a city like this in weeks or months, Jaxxo, Jim and L’eau D’ur decide to take in the sights of this strange city.
Welcome to Toothtown
Toothtown seems to be largely dominated by some of the more evil races that are prevalent in Spelljammer. I will let Jon tell you about these species because honestly I don’t have nearly the same familiarity with D&D races as he does.
Ain’t a big deal. You guys had bumped into mostly good races so far, and I wanted a toothier feel to Toothtown.
As a result, there seems to be quite the lively slave trade here. That’s fun.
My monkey, Socks, goes running off into the crowded streets of Toothtown and it’s a whole thing.
Also L’Eau Dur gets distracted by some spell components for sale or something. Actually it was probably booze.
We start a session called “Jaxo On Planet Doppelganger” and Pat doesn’t bat an eye when I narrate all of the PCs splitting up and disappearing. This was a weak point in the setup. If he’d been really focused on what was going on I think he would have seen through the whole ruse right here, but either he was asleep at the wheel or the purposefully goofy Lizardmen monk battle described below distracted him.
Our Lizardman, Jaxxo, has been devoting his life to finding a cure for the genophage that has been decimating his people back in our reality. So, when we see a group of Lizardmen sparring and fighting in the town square, he is pretty interested in checking it out.
Turns out these are 70’s style Lizardfolk. Which means they are quite dumb.
Funny, that. Lizardfolk from Spelljammer are all super emotional dumb dumbs and Lizardfolk in 5th ed are all emotionless primitives. Haha Spelljammer.
Jaxxo tries to get some information out of them, but they are next to useless. The only thing he manages to come away with is that the Lizardguys have a very strong Master. Jaxxo decided to fight him, because why not?
There seems to be some bets being placed on the Lizard fights, and the old school Lizardbros are not very good at fighting. Jim sees an opportunity and tries to drum up some action with mixed success.
Also, we’re pretty sure that a punch from Jaxxo will explode this 70’s Lizarddude into a gooey paste, so we buy some mittens for Jaxxo to wear during the fight. Jaxxo, predictably wins the fight easily and demands to seek an audience with these dummies’ Master.
They won’t tell him. It’s a secret.
So, The Thing About The Dopplegangers
Remember how I said my monkey ran off and it was a whole thing? Well, when he did so, both Jim and L’Eau D’ur were replaced by Doppelgangers.
Jon had secretly told us that we were both Dopplegangers, but we didn’t actually know the other one was a Doppelganger. This was a bunch of fun, but I think it would have been even better if we had a full group of 5 players.
I mean, yeah, obviously. Especially since Danny said he didn’t want to be a Doppelganger, so there even would have been a twist on “they’re all doppelgangers.” Would have kept Pat guessing to the very end.
Here’s what Jon sent us individually:
Congratulations! You’re the Doppelganger!
There will be a sort of narration at the start where you get replaced. It will be fairly obvious when the new you arrives.
The goal of the doppelganger is to steal as much as possible from the party, and then allow them to leave the planet without knowing what happened. The doppelganger is patient: he knows that infiltrating and then assassinating will draw a lot of attention to him and his plots, and so he’s willing to sit back and gather information for a while. He also really wants to learn about magic items that the party might have, or secret treasures, or any offword information, so he’s eager to see the party in action. He might make a mistake now and again if the party talks about some juicy tidbit. He’s really into offworld stories, but he knows that straight asking will give up the scheme.
Things won’t go according to his plan, and honestly this might turn into a total mess, but fuck if we’re not going to try with a story like “Planet Doppelganger”
At the start of the session, the doppelganger has been observing Jim for about an hour, so he’s got mannerisms down, but if he’s pressed into revealing things he doesn’t know he’ll deflect as best he can. Greater doppelgangers have a gnarly +11 Deception, and they roll at advantage if they’ve had time to study their target (which he will have). Furthermore, he has the 2nd level wizard spell Detect Thoughts at will (through psionics) so he has a pretty good chance to be able to pick up the correct answers when asked about questions. Don’t worry about rolling for Detect Thoughts. If you’re pressed into revealing something that the doppelganger won’t know (Elise’s name, Glacius Rex’s dragon’s color, some shit like that) it will take ~30 seconds or so for the information to become available. You’ll have to delay or distract for that time, and then you get the information. Haha psionics.
About the Greater Doppelganger:
1) He’s really fucking smart: ~16 or so intelligence, this might be a tell
2) Immune to sleep, charm and hold person
3) Can cast Haste on himself as an action (again, psionics)
4) Can cast Major Image at will (see below, this one matters)
How to handle stats and rolls:
1) Use your own stats, however if you have an exceptional ability (like your dex is way high, drop a few points on anything dex related, and I’ll step in if Pat asks, this is a legit ‘tell’ that the doppelganger can’t help)
2) Magic items won’t grant their bonuses as they are flesh-mimics, ew, again, this is a tell and I’ll help if he asks
3) Major Image at will is a big deal. As an action you create an illusion of anything, max size 20^3 and includes all senses. As an action you can change it or redo it, and the target makes a save. I will roll saves for people. Because of this he can fake spells and effects and all sorts of things, like your monkey
4) Doppelganger spell DC is 15, and his spell attack is +7, if that comes up.
What happens if the jig is up:
1) The doppelganger will try to escape, casting haste on himself and fleeing, maybe using major illusion
2) If he gets forced into melee (nobody is escaping Jaxxo) he will grapple with Jaxxo (He has a +11 on Athletics) and as soon as he has a free action will duplicate Jaxxo and then try to convince the party that he is in fact Jaxxo, 30 second delay on mind-reading details!
3) Keep using your stats; no magic items
4) If he dies or successfully escapes it’s ok, you’ll be back in the game soon
Don’t tell anyone about this. Will give everything away. Lame.
So basically we had “Major Image” up to trick everyone visually, and we could kind of read Jaxxo’s mind with a 30 second delay to get at info that we might not know about in a conversation.
The end result was a few real awkward “you had to be there” conversations while Marc (L’Eau D’ur’s player) and I kind of spoke in strange generalities to each other while Jaxxo tried to figure out if we should go see the Lizardfighter’s Master. Again, I think this would have been off the chains lolz if we had four players kind of mucking about with only a surface understanding of the party.
Notice how I cleverly used singular “the doppelganger” throughout? I had separate email chains with everyone trying to make sure this would work out. Tragic!
I sort of assumed that as the night went on the doppelganger players would figure out that there were rival doppelgangers also trying to steal from Jaxo. I wanted there to be a bit of competition between you guys as well.
Sometimes you throw pieces onto the board and just see if it works out, not sure how much more I could have set up for this to really click. I’m sure there’s something I could have done better, but either way all my planning was sort of shot when Danny and Eric couldn’t show up.
And There Were Some Modrons
We managed to figure out from asking around town that basically Toothtown was the only real “civilized” place on the planet. The surface was a lush, dangerous jungle full of dumb 70’s Lizardmen and everyone just lived on top of the big tooth.
We decided that we had to get down to the surface, which was easier said than done. The surface was covered in a jungle so dense that landing the Space Whale would have been impossible. It seemed that Lizardguys would typically scale up the full height of the tooth (I think Jon said it was like a mile or two up?) to get into Toothtown.
So it was just a question of finding a good starting point for the climb down a giant tooth, easy right?
After messing around the edge of the tooth we found ourselves short on obvious options. Except there was a small cube shaped building that seemed to kind of straddle the edge. A cube building filled with Modrons.
Today was the day we found out that Modrons are, get this, Law Elementals.
I’ve never heard them described that way, although as native beings from Mechanus, the plane of Law, it kind of makes sense to describe them as such.
With two of the party members being Doppelgangers and the other being a Lizardfolk Stealth Monk, we just snuck in past the door man and sure enough, found a little hatch that lead to an area with some pitons and things stuck into the tooth, the perfect starting point for a long climb.
Not going to lie, this was random as all hell. I mean, which is fine, we’re Spelljamming on Planet Doppelganger.
I just wanted modrons in the game at least once. Plus this whole session I built to be a little flimsy to give the doppelgangers chances to do stuff, it wasn’t so much about providing a story, so much as providing opportunities for you guys to mess with Jaxo.
The Opposite of a Jungle Adventure
We make our way down the tooth and into the jungle and all of its countless threats.
Except the entire party is either exceptionally stealthy (Jaxxo) or can easily hide themselves with Major Image, the sneaking through the jungle goes off without a hitch. We just sneak our way past some kind of tentacle monster, a t-rex and probably a bunch of other dangerous stuff easy peasey.
Someone even throws out “Pass Without Trace” for good measure (although that might have just been L’Eau D’ur’s Doppelganger extending his Major Image out to cover up Jaxxo).
Eventually the trail leads us towards a ruined temple, covered in vines. Inside of the temple we find a statue of a kneeling Lizardfolk. And at his feet? A Bag of 10,000 Essences.
More on that later.
The jungle was flimsy as well. If the encounters were way hard, the doppelgangers wouldn’t have had a chance to do their thing. I’m a little amazed that by this point Pat wasn’t getting real suspicious. Jaxo has a decent wisdom score, he might have gotten through their ruse.
Jajakut My Life Into Pieces
This is my last resort!
You might remember the Jajakut (or Jajakun) from our adventure in the monastery. Jaxxo seems to think this creepy glowing blue guy is somehow related to the genophage that is decimating his people.
So imagine his surprise when the Jajakut shows up on a giant tooth planet!
Imagine his surprise when a little monkey, followed by another Jim and L’eau D’ur also shows up!
One L’eau D’ur points at the other and screams “You took my liquor!” and then… chaos.
Again, I am quite sad this didn’t go down with a full four doppelgangers.
Was the setup not solid gold? Even if he had discovered one or two of the doppelgangers, my order at the start of the combat would have been the same: YOU know who the real character is and YOU know who the doppelganger is, just take over. The combat was meant to be complete chaos. Sadly you guys didn’t bite, you tried to play smart rather than fun. Also, you pretty much cheated completely: I said try to steal stuff, and Jaxo was stunned for six rounds, and neither of you grabbed his sword and ran off. Lame.
Whoa there buddy, he was stunned for several rounds on an isolated little island surrounded by lava that he got over to by teleporting. I was trying to get the DoppelJim and real Jim close to him but it wasn’t exactly an easy task. I even had a whole thing planned where real Jim was like “I’m not saying I wouldn’t steal your sword, I’m saying that in this case, it was doppelganger.” Neither Jim or the Doppelganger wanted to end up in lava, especially since you said to drop a few points of Dex off of DoppelJim. Self-preservation vs stealing a big ole’ sword.
He was stunned right beside the spot where the Zsha-Zsha-Koot started the fight on the ruined platform. Not past any lava. Jaxo used his shadow walk ability to teleport next to the Zsha-Zsha-Koot, the Zsha-Zsha-Koot saved vs. his stunning fist, and then the Zsha-Zsha-Koot Power Word: Stunned him and then used his angelic transformation to fly over to the islands. I assure you he was on the mainland, away from the lava. In the last rounds of the fight you even had the doppelganger-Jim move to within one move of Jaxo’s stunned body and I was thinking ‘oh shit he’s finally doing it’ but that was the round that Jaxo saved off the Power Word: Stun.
The L’eau D’urs basically squared off against each other, which I thought was a bold choice by Marc since he was basically just rolling dice against himself for the rest of the night.
It was the path of least resistance.
The Jim Clockses decided that the best way to keep the ruse up was to try to help Jaxxo as much as they could, repeatedly repeating things like “If I wasn’t Jim, could I do… this?” and generally just flipping around doing Rogue shit.
Not sure how much Pat (Jaxxo’s player) was paying attention, but the real Jim Clocks dropped a pretty devastating Sneak Attack that the Doppelganger certainly wouldn’t have been able to pull off.
Sadly, the pair of doppelgangers both took enough of a beating in the combat that both of their survival instincts kicked in and they bailed before the classic “but who is your real friend” scene could take place.
So What Was the Point of This?
What was the point of any of this?
Well, it turns out that the Jajakut found a planet full of Lizardfolk and was just messing with them, possibly trying to launch another genophage or something. Honestly, his motives at this point are a little murky.
But hey, that Bag of 10,000 Essences is essentially the cure to the blight upon the race of the Lizardfolk so that is a pretty nice thing.
Still not sure what the real end-game was for those doppelgangers though.
Well you could have looted Jaxo’s stunned body but both of you wimped out (salty DM).
Honestly, I just wanted a crazy 4v4 doppelganger vs PC melee, Jaxo fighting his nemesis over a pool of lava, with everyone unsure of who was who. In the ideal version of this session, Pat would have caught one or two of the doppelgangers and killed/chased them off. So when the other party showed up, it would have been 50/50 doppelgangers/PCs. When the fight started it would have been extremely difficult to tell who was who.
Looked real good in my head. Sadly the whole thing needed a full house to really work.
A little tragic, but maybe someone reading this can run the exact same session and have it go better. This one could have been -crazy- awesome at the end.
Tune in next week where the Ne’er-do-Well Cads find themselves trapped, in the Arena of Sport!
Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.